cassiopeia7 and caranfindel have both written wonderful, entertaining recaps/reviews of “Good Intentions”, so hit their journals if that's what you're looking for.
I'm going to be contemplative about the current direction of the show, with a big dose of Sam!girl salt. Just so's you know. I'm still in it for the long haul, but I have complaints. (No, YOU?)
As I said above, Supernatural has become an ensemble cast. Jared and Jensen may still be in every episode, to varying degrees, but their characters are no longer actually the central nexus of the mytharc. This is different from the first half of the series' run in that Sam and Dean's relationship and watching them untangle the mystery that was their family (as well as themselves), kept us glued to the TV. Not anymore.
Nowadays, a fan is as likely to be watching for Destiel or Wayward Sisters or Jack or anything else BUT Sam and Dean. And given the popularity of this Destiel business, anything else but Sam.
And it shows.
Sam and Dean are often little more than guest stars in their own series these days. Not only that, they've gone from 'epic' heroes to 'iconic' heroes. (I mentioned this elsewhere, but I'll recap here, because it has merit, IMHO.)
We all pretty much know what an epic hero is: a man whose fortune is brought about by his own admired characteristics. They're proactive, rise above their flaws, and take on Herculean (see what I did there?) tasks. The iconic hero, however, is more like a Conan the Barbarian or a Mad Max. The tale isn't really about them, but they are the thread that connects the plot points together. They're almost like tour guides through a story. This is pretty typical for procedural television, actually. (How much did Jessica Fletcher from 'Murder She Wrote' actually evolve?) Problem is, that's not really how SPN gained the rabid, loyal fanbase that it did. It started as a horror procedural, but bottled lightning when Kripke and Singer realized the magic they had in the relationship between Sam and Dean. It wasn't just the chemistry between the actors; the audience tuned in to watch the brothers unpack their emotional baggage and struggle with each other and a difficult paternal relationship. All the while, monsters, demons and angels nipped at their heels, and ultimately, they had to confront the fact that both of them were inextricably entwined, by blood, with a fate bigger than mankind. They started, and thwarted, The Apocalypse.
Nowadays? The Winchesters have become iconic heroes in the MotW episodes, MacGuffins in the mytharc ones. Per TVTropes: “A MacGuffin (a.k.a. McGuffin or maguffin) is a term for a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose.”
Jack wants to be on the 'good' side for the Winchesters. Mary is being told that her sons made a positive difference, so she feels worthy herself. Claire returns to the roost to save Sam and Dean, thereby kicking off Wayward Sisters. Cas, uh, well Dean's there for him so that Destiel shippers have something to do. And Sam is there for Rowena to sucker him into giving her powerful magical whatevers, so she can return to bite them on the ass later. If we're SUPER lucky, we'll get a scattered handful of lines that reveal something about what's going on in Sam or Dean's noggin. Nothing about Sam-and-Dean's relationship. (Wee, it's so healthy now!) Nothing about them being supposedly too “important” to reap yet, per Billie-as-Death. (My guess is Dabb has nothing concrete planned for this.)
Lucifer doesn't give two shits about Sam as his original vessel, nor will Michael give any shits about Dean being his. Sam and Dean are just annoying flies in the ointment, eminently disposable.
Honestly, think about it: if Sam and Dean actually died died right now, it would impact absolutely nothing, plot-wise. Cas would continue to track Lucifer, Jody would continue to shepherd her girls, Mary and Jack would keep each other safe, trying to escape Apocaworld … I'm seriously not invested in the plot anymore. I watch the show out of fidelity, for the horror and the handsome.
This past episode, Sam stayed behind in the bunker while Dean and Cas went off and had a rough-n-tumble little adventure together. Sam, on the other hand, was easily taken out by Donatello, apparently overpowered Donatello later (off-camera) and then spent the last scene of the episode out of focus. Literally wallpaper. (Dean tends to be the Little Black Dress of the show; he looks good with everyone, so he gets screentime no matter what, with lots of those loving shots that linger on his face. I do enjoy those, make no mistake! But y'all know me... )
It's like they're dividing the show into two parts: the MotW episodes, with our iconic heroes (Sam and Dean) going through their typical paces, and the mytharc episodes, wherein our iconic heroes fade into set design, as the other characters become the epic heroes. Or epic villains, as the case may be. And I have to be completely honest: I don't much care about these epic characters. I'm just not invested in them.
I became invested in Supernatural like no other show. It struck me like a heart attack. I have never once wanted to find tie-in novels or search out additional products before, which is how I stumbled on fandom in general, the SPN one, in specific. But I'll tell you, if the current genesis of the show had been the one I'd seen, 13 years ago? I never would've gotten hooked. No way in hell. And this makes me reeeeeally frustrated, as the characters that got me addicted to begin with are still on the show, yet written with such disinterest.
Yeah, I know, it's not easy to explore characters who have long histories. It's far easier to take on characters who are still pretty much blank slates. I get it. Doesn't change the facts for me. SPN is a show that was conceived as one thing, turned into something else, and now is suffering for it. This season has been more “ensemble” than most. Thanks, Dabb. Ya fucker.
The next episode seems to be a MotW, so at the very least, I'm sure to get something more than Sam knocked out or blurred into obscurity. Right?